Bad Books

I think it was Stephen King who said that if a writer reads a really bad book they should put it in a special place on their bookshelves as a reminder that if such crap can get published …. My crappy book is Starliner by David Drake, published in 1992. (ISBN 0-671-72121-6)

To be upfront, it has been probably 10-12 years since I read it, so if there are any factual errors in my description, it is only because of my faulty memory. Okay, the book follows the Third Officer of a starliner. The first two-thirds of the book basically follow him as the ship arrives at a new planet, he has an adventure, and then gets laid. Now I don’t have anything against going to new planets, having adventures, and getting laid, but after it happens four or five times in a row, it does get monotonous. Don’t worry, there’s more to the story. This liner’s sister ship hasn’t been heard from and the fear is that it has been hijacked. Well, it has and the hijackers attack this starliner. Why? I don’t remember. But anyway, this guy fights some of the bad guys and is on his way to fight some more when he blacks out. When he comes to, the fight is over and the good guys have won. End of book.

Don’t get me wrong, if this guy had gone to the fight and bravely defeated the lead hijacker, this book would have just been another bland, clichéd book. Having the hero black out yanks the rug out from the reader. Now, sometimes that is good. For example, there is this other book about a galactic war, and the Han Solo type – who was introduced on page 1 – commits suicide around page 100 (out of 400) to keep the secrets he knows from falling into enemy hands. That yanked the rug out from under me, but in a good way. I was honestly surprised by that. (I won’t mention the book because I would have to look it up and also because the rest of the book wasn’t that great.) But with Starliner, I mean, if I was younger I might have been thrilled by all the sex, but I had matured beyond that and was looking for a good story. But after plodding through all the monotonous sex, you start into some interesting action, and then the guy blacks out. It was a major let down.

What have I learned from this? If you’re going to break a cliché, it better be something that advances the story. Don’t break a cliché just to break a cliché.

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3 Responses to “Bad Books”

  1. I think its true, instead though. I think everywriter needs to take an amazing book, put it on your shelf and say, “I could do better…”

    Why think so low??

    • I don’t think it’s thinking low, more being comfortable with what you do. Hmm. Perhaps having a bad book could inflate one’s ego, but setting too high a goal can lead to frustration. I guess on one hand you need to know that there is always room for improvement, but on the other hand you need to be realistic in knowing that few of us will write the Great American Novel.

  2. flighttoinsanity Says:

    A book being published might show little of how successful it was. alot of books get published in a short run. this isn’t profitable for the writer or the publisher. i hope that one day a publisher would want to publish the book i’m working on with my wife. we still have alot of blood sweat and tears to put into it. when we finish i will want to self publish at least a few dozen copies to give to friends and family. guess i know what everybody is getting for christmas in 2009 or maybe 2010 more realisticly. it would be nice if we turned some profit from it one day. That’s not our motive for writing this. we want to capture the events that happened to us and preserve them in a way that others can share the ups and downs. I think it will be an inspiring work as a non fiction novel.

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